Dr Beh Swan Gin, Chairman of the Economic Development Board

Friends from the local and international design and business community

Ladies and Gentlemen

It is my pleasure to join you this evening for the opening of Singapore Design Week 2017. This is the fourth time we are organising the Design Week. I am happy that the programmes have grown stronger and we are attracting good participation from industry stakeholders, communities as well as international guests. 

Design as an enabler for innovation

2 Ladies and gentlemen, in this age of digitalisation, Design – more so now than ever – can help businesses grow and innovate.  Last year, we launched the Design 2025 master plan, which envisioned Singapore as an innovation-driven economy and a loveable city by design.  We have seen an increase in the number of Design-centric businesses that are scaling up their use of Design for innovation and growth. More Singaporeans are also taking the lead in deploying design innovation strategically. 

3 Tonight, I would like to highlight our plans in three areas to push for the greater adoption of Design. 

Expanding the Role of Design in Business and Government

4 Firstly, we will help our local large enterprises become global industry leaders, by growing new business ventures or disrupting their business models using Design. Design should not be an afterthought, but an upstream input to business strategy development, so that it can deliver new value and create new markets.  

5 Dsg will be partnering the Economic Development Board to launch the Innovation by Design Programme. Through this programme, we want to help businesses use design as a tool for business strategy and organisational transformation. This entails growing capabilities and catalysing a mindset change among business leaders. Their appreciation for the value of design and how design can positively influence the organisation’s vision and strategy will drive innovation within the organisation. 

6 At the same time, we will also do more to support our Small and Medium Enterprises to adopt Design in their business models. The DesignSingapore Council or Dsg will work with SPRING Singapore to encourage more businesses to tap on SPRING’s Capability Development Grant to do this.

7 We will also expand the role of Design in the government. Dsg will work with public agencies to engage citizens in the delivery of citizen-centric policies and services, such as the digital transformation of government services. One example is ‘Better Life by Design: Designing for persons with disabilities’. Commissioned by Dsg, in collaboration with National Council of Social Service and several social service organisations, this design research project focused on using an inclusive design approach to improve the quality of life for persons with disabilities and how they experience existing social services. This project received the international iF Design Award in the Service Design category, in Germany last month.  

Building a Strong Ecosystem of Design Enterprises and Talent

8 Secondly, we will build a strong ecosystem of design enterprises and talent with relevant capabilities and skillsets. Design practitioners need to develop leadership capabilities, and sometimes play different roles, so that they can generate greater value in the design and business ecosystem. Job opportunities for designers are no longer limited to working in design firms. With more companies building in-house design teams to help them stay nimble to respond to market changes, many designers are now employed in MNCs and innovation service firms. 

9 To address these shifts, Dsg will develop the Design Industry Manpower Plan to project the manpower needs of the industry, outline career pathways, as well as map out the skills required for designers to succeed in their roles. Dsg will partner with the Ministry of Education, SkillsFuture Singapore and Workforce Singapore to enhance design education and training to address emerging skills for the future economy, in consultation with industry and global design institutions. Dsg will also establish a tripartite Design Education Panel comprising industry practitioners and the design schools of our Institutes of Higher Learning and government agencies to guide the development of this manpower plan. 

Strengthening the Design Industry and Competitiveness of Design Firms

10 Finally, amid a changing global economy, the design industry needs to ensure it is well-positioned to respond to future trends and capture growth opportunities. To that end, Dsg will review the way it supports industry associations, by providing more support that is customised to associations’ needs. Dsg will work with design professionals and industry associations to conduct studies and understand the trends and global disruptions affecting the sector. Dsg will work in partnership with industry associations to map out the landscape for their respective sub-sectors, identify global trends and business opportunities, and develop their three-year plans to grow their sub-sectors.  


11 Design is becoming more pervasive in Singapore and we see it in our communities working together to shape the environment in which we live, work and play. I’m happy to see the return of Singapore’s presentations at last year’s Venice Architecture Biennale here at NDC. The Frontliners in Action showcase reflects this pervasiveness of design in Singapore and it shows us how citizens and the community have taken ownership to create a home to call their own. We are heartened and encouraged to see this and we look forward to seeing more of such initiatives. 

12 We are committed to building a more vibrant and competitive Singapore by design. We are proud to see our design firms and practitioners, such as Carolyn Kan of Carrie K. Artisan Jewellery and architectural practice WOHA, making an impact around the world. We will continue to invest in design, by embedding design in the national mindset and into people’s lives, so as to create new value propositions, remain competitive and improve the quality of life. Together, we can build an innovation-driven and loveable Singapore by design.

13 Thank you.